Paolo di Canio was a pretty decent footballer, and if he describes someone as having the potential to be 'one of the best players in the league', he’ll know that he’s making a pretty big call. So, no pressure on Sunderland’s new Italian signing Emanuele Giaccherini then! The Wearsiders have signed the Tuscan, Giaccherini on a four year deal and the club’s manager clearly expects big things from him.
Giaccherini signs from Italian club Juventus, where his stay could hardly have been described as ‘stellar’. In two years, he played 40 games, scoring just four goals, but this was probably not the record that persuaded di Canio to part with some of Sunderland’s transfer funds. More likely, it was the player’s performances for the national team that impressed him. The Azzurri deploy Giaccherini as a left wing-back, which allows him the space to use his attacking abilities in a fairly fluid system. It may well be that Sunderland will have a similar role in mind for him, rather how he was used by the Old Lady of Turin. In the wide role, he has featured regularly for Prandelli’s first eleven. He played in every game of the recent Confederations Cup in Brazil, setting up Italy’s opennig goal for Mario Balotelli against Mexico, and scored himself against the hosts in the final group game. He was also a whisker away from taking Italy to the finals when he had an extra time shot cannon off the post in the semi final against Brazil.
Whilst di Canio is looking for the players to excel in the new season, he also recognizes that hitting the ground running in the Premier League is not an easy task. Accepting that there may be work to do on the fitness front, he said that “he’s a still a bit behind and he’s a bit heavy in his legs right now but in the future he will be a crucial player.” He was also keen to make clear that he believes that he has purchased a player of the highest ability. He commented that “there are no doubts about his technical quality,” but added “English football is one of the more difficult leagues in the world, there are much more tackles and the fixture congestion and playing in the winter. You have to change your mentality completely. But I was sure about his attitude and desire to come to England. When you sign a foreign player I want to know if he loves English football and if he has a desire to understand English football and integrate himself in English life. He’s a fantastic lad and will be one of the best players in this league. He’s a very humble guy but he is one of the best players in one of the best national teams in the world.”
If di Canio’s – and Prandelli’s for that matter – opinions are valid, Sunderland could have signed themselves a player who will be a Premier League star. At 28, this is no callow youth, but a footballer brought up in the school of hard knocks that is Serie A. As di Canio says, there may be an adjustment period, but a player turning out regularly for Italy, must be worth waiting for.